Nightmare Country writer James Tynion IV tells EW why the teeth-eyed serial killer, played by Boyd Holbrook in the Netflix series, makes such a compelling character.
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Now that The Sandman  is streaming on Netflix, a whole new generation has come face-to-face with the Corinthian. Originally created by writer Neil Gaiman and artist Mike Dringenberg in issue #10 of The Sandman comic, the Corinthian is a nightmare made flesh, a serial killer with teeth for eyes. He is also, as actor Boyd Holbrook makes clear on screen, extremely cool and attractive. All of that together has made him a fan favorite, both then and now. 

If you finish all 10 episodes of Netflix's The Sandman and find yourself wanting more of The Corinthian, worry not: There's a new Sandman comic being published right now that focuses on The Corinthian as the central character. It's called The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country — the latest entry in the series of spinoff comics that Gaiman has personally overseen since 2018 — and it's written by James Tynion IV, who just won the Eisner Award for Best Writer for the second year in a row. The art is done by Lisandro Estherren and guests like Yanick Paquette and Andrea Sorrentino.

In a new interview with EW, Tynion explains what fascinates him about the Corinthian. 

"The Corinthian is one of the best horror images in the history of comics," Tynion says of the teeth-eyed killer. "He is such a creepy figure, and he leans into this core set of fears. If you read a lot of true crime, you can see how the entire mythology of serial killers is woven into the essence of him as a character in this really powerful and terrifying way. He's essentially the patron saint of serial killers." 

The Sandman Nightmare Country The Corinthian
Boyd Holbrook as the Corinthian in Netflix's 'The Sandman,' and the character as he appears on the cover of 'The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country' #3
| Credit: DC Comics
The Sandman Nightmare Country The Corinthian
The Corinthian walks the Dreaming in 'Nightmare Country' #1. Art by Yanick Paquette
| Credit: DC Comics

Dream of the Endless originally created the Corinthian to be a "dark mirror" for mankind. But when Dream was imprisoned by humans for a century, the Corinthian escaped the confines of the Dreaming and made his terror real by actually murdering living humans. Dream eventually stopped the Corinthian's rampage, and even recreated him as a more palatable antihero figure towards the end of the original comic. 

As Nightmare Country begins, the Corinthian is once again in the real world, looking for answers. As terrifying as he is, and as odd as this may sound, the Corinthian does share similarities with fairy-tale characters like Pinocchio or Ariel: He wants to be real. He wants to be where the people are. 

"With Nightmare Country, I wanted to throw him out of his element, while not robbing him of any of his horror," Tynion says. "Some of the steps that we're going to see him take, it'll seem like he might be doing something because he cares about a person. He does not actually care about the person. He is curious and he wants to explore, which is something that goes all the way back to the original work. This is a character who wanted out of dreams into reality, because he had this sense that reality was more primal, where he could get what he wanted. That desire to escape and take something real is core to him."

The Sandman Nightmare Country The Corinthian
The Corinthian in 'Nightmare Country' #1. Art by Yanick Paquette
| Credit: DC Comics
The Sandman Nightmare Country The Corinthian
The Corinthian in 'Nightmare Country' #1. Art by Yanick Paquette
| Credit: DC Comics

The Corinthian of Nightmare Country is also torn between his two incarnations. Interested readers whose only Sandman exposure is the Netflix series (which adapts the first two comic arcs, Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll's House) will get something out of its commentary on the original story. 

"I wanted to write a comic that, even if you had never read a Sandman comic before, would give you all of the core pieces that you needed to understand the story we're telling," Tynion says. "I also wanted to take the principles of a story like The Doll's House or A Game of You where we have these core point-of-view characters who have entered the story without knowing all of these pieces."

Tynion continues, "Morpheus describes him as the dark mirror that was meant to be held against humanity. The mirroring of the Corinthian, the idea of the Corinthian, and the ways ideas spread and can be contagious, especially dangerous ideas, is right at the core of Nightmare Country. Nightmare Country will, over time, show itself to be a dark mirror to The Doll's House." 

The Sandman Nightmare Country The Corinthian
The Corinthian and Lucien explore The Dreaming's library in 'Nightmare Country' #2. Art by Lisandro Estherren
| Credit: DC Comics
The Sandman Nightmare Country The Corinthian
The Corinthian and Lucien explore The Dreaming's library in 'Nightmare Country' #2. Art by Lisandro Estherren
| Credit: DC Comics

Tynion says that reading Sandman at a young age "legitimately changed my life" — something that many people, including this EW reporter, can relate to. As he has embarked on his own comics-writing career, he says that Gaiman's masterpiece continues to be "the Rosetta Stone" that unlocks all his work. 

"The core concept that dreams and ideas influence reality, you can find a thread of that in almost all of my work," Tynion says. "The way that monsters come from fear is in Something Is Killing the Children. The way that collective belief reshapes reality is in The Department of Truth."  

This all climaxed last month, when Tynion received the Eisner Award for Best Writer from Gaiman himself — who won the award four times in the '90s for his work on Sandman comics. 

"The joke that I keep saying is that I don't know that I'll ever be able to fully emotionally process that moment," Tynion says. "All the way back when I got a box of Batman Annual #1, my first cover credit on a DC comic, I sent a message to Neil through the Tumblr ask system basically saying, 'hey I just received a box of DC comics with my name on the cover and I wouldn't be doing this if not for you and your work. I know you're never gonna see this but I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am for that.' And he sent me back a reply: 'I'm so glad!' It was just one sentence, but it meant the world to me." 

Now things have come full circle. New issues of The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country publish monthly, with the first collected edition on the way next spring. 

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